Preparing for a PCS

Since we found out we had orders (read here!) things have been busy, busy, busy around here with all sorts of researching! Researching which housing area to apply for – San Diego has a TON of on base and off base options, researching what schools the big kids would go to and since San Diego has the Choice program researching where we’d like to choice them to if we take that route, calling the Miramar School Liaison, calling around about preschools and preK for Cal, seeing what sports are offered on base and out in town and the list goes on and on. While I really do LOVE moving to new areas, this part is stressful! Trying to figure out all the options and then figuring out which option is the best to take is filled with so many what ifs. When you’ve never seen the housing area you’re requesting to live in, how are you supposed to know if it’s safe for your family or not? If it has the best school options for your kids?! Thankfully we used to live near San Diego when we were stationed at Camp Pendleton, so I know that we are going to LOVE the area and all that it has to offer. And I also know, that as always, things have a way of working out just how they’re supposed to. Soon enough, this move will be behind us and we’ll be enjoying the beautiful weather, beaches, delicious food, being just a couple hours away from my brother and his family! – and everything else that makes San Diego such an awesome city to live in!

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Picture of La Jolla from Brian, Addy and my visit out to CA in 2016

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We have orders!!

After waiting months and months to find out where we’re PCSing to, we finally have orders!! We’re headed too….

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MCAS Miramar!! Back to CA and we couldn’t be more excited! After spending our first 7 years of Marine Corps life at Pendleton we are so, so pumped to get back to the area that we know and love. We told the kids yesterday and Adelyn was jumping up and down all over the place and shooting hoorayyy!! Adorable! The boys were pretty excited too 🙂

I’ve already started the process of looking at housing, schools and seeing where the best place to live. It’s a bit overwhelming and stressful but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved it too! San Diego is packed full of amazing things to see and do and getting to spend another few years of our lives there is a major blessing in my book. Can’t wait to get out there!

4 more years!

We’re still waiting on orders – tear – but yesterday Brian reenlisted! IMG_2963-Edit

These aren’t too too big of a deal anymore because once you’re past 10 years it’s pretty much certain that you’re in for the long haul! We’re at 14 years now, so this enlistment will take us to 18 years which is CRAZY to think about. The Marine Corps life has it’s ups and downs but for us, the ups far outweigh the downs. Here’s to 6+ more years of enjoying this wild and crazy ride!

A look back!

So as I sit here patiently *not so patiently* waiting to hear what our next duty station will be, I figured it would be fun to look back on our last duty stations and share a bit about them all! So far we’re on our 4th duty station. Our first was…

Camp Pendleton

Brian was stationed here from around the beginning of 2004, I joined him at the end of 2004 and then we moved away in the summer of 2011. We were super lucky and got to stay here back to back and we ABSOLUTELY loved our time there. Brian started off as a helicopter mechanic and then LAT moved after his first enlistment to combat camera. When it comes to first duty stations, let me tell you, it doesn’t get much better than southern California! There are so many things to do in the area. I feel like we did a good amount but looking back I wish we would have done even more! There’s the beach, hiking, parks, local sports teams, farmers markets, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, lots of adorable local/a few hour drive cities to travel to and I could go on and on and on. This was by far our favorite place we’ve lived!

Syracuse, NY

Up next was Syracuse, NY July 2011 – June 2012. Syracuse University runs a military program yearly, where a few combat cameraman from every branch of the military, apply to attend their program and go to college for a year (really just Sept-May) through the Newhouse School of Public Communication. When Brian came home from deployment as a newly promoted Staff Sergeant it was time for orders and with such a small MOS, the only place he could get orders to was Syracuse. For 11 months. He hadn’t even applied for the program! I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this duty station. This was our first time having to rent a place “out in town,” our oldest was starting kindergarten and since we were 2,700 miles away in Camp Pendleton we had no idea where to live. I decided to take a step back from my controlling ways ha, and let my husband find a house for us. NEVER AGAIN! Within the first 5 minutes that we arrived at our house, I wanted to cry and punch him all at the same time lol. I say that lovingly as we just laugh about that house now. But at the time, oh man did I want to kill him. There was only one bathroom, no A/C (and it was 95 degrees outside,) it was a dingy old house and we lived about 2 streets over from the crappy part of town. But for how horrible our house was, his time at Syracuse was a huge blessing to our family. We had just came off of three deployments and his first semester he had classes 4 days a week and his second only 3! It was amazing! We had so much family time together. Syracuse wasn’t my favorite town but the towns around it were absolutely beautiful. This was the first place I ever lived that had all fours seasons, got REAL snow, the kids LOVED it and we traveled all over in our short time there.

Marine Corp Base Quantico/Pentagon

So after our time at Syracuse, my husband received orders to Quantico, VA and we stayed there from July 2012 – Dec 2014. This was the first place that we decided to buy a house (mainly because the housing list was 12 months long and we didn’t want to move twice.) We bought a home in the town south of Quantico and really loved that house! After living in base housing/renting for the last 7 years it was pretty fun to own a home of our own, it made me feel like a real grown up! All we had heard about Quantico was that the traffic really sucked. I’ll be honest, I heard people say that and blew it off like they were crazy. I mean we grew up in DFW and had suffered through the traffic on the 5 all up and down CA! But they were right. It was was an horrible as people say it is. I honestly don’t think people know what traffic is til they live in NOVA. I can not tell you how many times the simple 13 mile drive from Stafford to Fredericksburg – which should take 15 minutes – took an hour! You literally plan your life around traffic. You’re constantly having the internal battle of do I attempt to fight the traffic or not. It was insanity. That part about living in northern Virginia was pretty darn miserable. But other than that, the area really grew on me and I miss it more than I thought I would. It’s an absolutely beautiful area, with SO much history and lots of things to do and see. Another area with a beautiful fall, just enough snow that you don’t hate life and a base where you don’t have to worry about deployments which was a nice break. Brian stayed at Quantico for about 2 years and the last 6 months was moved up to the Pentagon which sounds cool (and I think it was lol!) but it made Brian’s commute to work extremely long. It was 35 miles away and easily an hour and half drive home. I should mention though, exactly 4 months after buying our house Brian got put on the HSST list and a couple months later received recruiting duty orders. Not what we were hoping for as he had just tried to be a DI before coming to Quantico and his MOS told him no, we need you! Apparently they didn’t need him that bad! But if you ever happen to be stationed in the area or live in NOVA, you will love it! So much history, historical places to see, battlefields, museums, beautiful parks, a couple national parks even nearby, not far from DC and all it has to offer – cherry blossom season is my favorite!, 4 different seasons, lots of local sports teams again and so much more.

Recruiting Station Dallas

And last – our current location, RS Dallas. Jan 15 – Jan 18. While I’ll be the first to attempt I was dreading coming on recruiting duty, our time on it has been a complete blessing. We ended up being stationed 20 minutes from family. 6 months into recruiting duty, Brian’s higher ups pulled him up to the RS headquarters to be the program specialist because they loved him so much. We went from horrible 12+ hour days 6 days a week, to pretty much a normal working day. We couldn’t have had a better experience! While Texas isn’t my favorite as far as places to live goes, there is some nostalgic about being back near our hometowns. And our kids getting to live so close to lots of their grandparents is pretty dang crazy for military brats!

I’d love to hear what your favorite duty station has been?! Or your favorite place you’ve ever lived?!

Such is the life…

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I saw this meme and it totally cracked me up because it’s COMPLETELY right about military life!

A couple months ago when my husband was selected for Gunnery Sergeant he started talking to the monitor to see where he could get orders to next. We will be finished with recruiting duty in January and it’s always an exciting/anxious time figuring out where will be PCSed (permanent change of station) to next! Pretty quickly afterwards the monitor told us where he’d be going (!!!) but that we’d have to wait a bit for orders. My husband is a combat camera Marine and his MOS and the public affairs MOS will be merging soon, so they were unable to cut orders for us until the merge officially happens. Ok that’s fine, no worries – except that we need to get on the housing list in case we want to live on base and of course the list is months and months long. With each passing week my no worries attitude was slipping further and further away! Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, after my husband bugged the monitor enough he cut us orders  -yay!! – but they still had to be sent up to EFMP for approval (a program that helps make sure people with medical issues get stationed at places that can provide services for them.) So yet again we still waited and waited for the orders to finally hit the system. We thought it’d be no big deal and they would approve them right away! But after a series of phone calls on Friday, it turned out the doctor our son Grayson needs to see is much MUCH further away than we’d like. The EFMP coordinator that I was speaking with told me we could get the orders cancelled if we wanted and that it was up to us. Insert panic mode – trying to decide what’s best for our family and Brian’s career – ekkk! He was really really looking forward to the unit he was headed to and I hated to take that away from him but as soon as he heard how far away the drive would be, he called the EFMP coordinator and cancelled the orders. And just like that we are back at square one! I’m excited and hopeful that we’ll find something out soon and that it will be an even better situation for us. With just 4 months away til we move I hope we find something out quickly! I had already started talking to a realtor, researched school districts, researched place to visit around our new duty station but thankfully hadn’t told the kids yet. I wanted to wait til we had official orders before we said anything to them, to make this move as smooth as possible and I’m glad we did. I’m sure they’ll be fine with anywhere that we go, but this move feels a bit different than all our other moves since we live by family. Our older kids have already started talking about not wanting to move away from their grandparents. But such is the life – moves are just a part of being a military family and honestly they’re one of my favorite parts of this life. Can’t wait to find out where we’re going next!

Boone Hall Plantation

These last few weeks of summer vacation have been crazy busy! I have a ton of pictures to post but for now I’m posting a bit more from my Surprise Birthday trip for Brian to Charleston, South Carolina with some of our long time Marine Corps friends. One morning we decided to head over to Boone Hall Plantation – the one that they used while filming The Notebook!! It was beautiful!

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Even just the drive down these line of oak trees was gorgeous! I’m absolutely in love with them and there were all over the plantation.

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There was lots to do and see at the plantation, we took a tractor ride around the many acres of the property and toured the home. We also just walked around and explored the garden, old slave quarters, and walked near the water. If you’re ever in Charleston I definitely recommend checking it out!

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Surprise Birthday Trip to South Carolina!

So way back in January it dawned on me that Brian would be turning 35 this year!! Our favorite thing to do is travel so I immediately started thinking about planning a surprise trip for him. I asked our best friends if they would want to come along with us and we started thinking of places we’d like to visit. We’ve vacationed a good amount of places in the US over the years (San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Rhode Island, Vegas, Colorado, NYC, Seattle, to name a few) and we wanted somewhere convenientish for us and our friends who are currently stationed in VA. My friend, who happens to be a travel agent at Heather Christopher Travel,  had just went on a vacation to Charleston, SC and it looked amazing! So we decided to plan a vacation to SC a bit before his birthday and before school started. But now I had to come up with some reason for Brian to take a whole week’s worth of leave AND not tell him why. I came up with an excuse (so we can hang out with the kids all week and then go to the lake) and causally mentioned if such and such week would be a good time for him to take leave. He confirmed at work that yes, that would be fine (wahoo!) so we started planning and booked our hotels! Fast forward to a couple months before the trip when it was finally time for him to submit for leave. I again, mentioned – hey, remember that you need to put in for leave soon so we can go to the lake in July (wink, wink) and finally a couple days later I get a text from him that says – “I don’t think I’m going to be able to take leave that week. Too many people will be gone at work.” Insert panic mode!! I really really, didn’t want to have to tell him about the trip, I wanted to just tell him the day before to pack his bags because we’re going on vacation! But that’s just how life is in the Marine Corps. He kept saying, well it’ll be fine, I’ll just take Friday-Sunday off so we can go to the lake… arghhhh!! I called him and yelled something like – #$%@# Brian! haha Ended up telling him that I had already planned a surprise birthday trip for him and that I REALLY needed him to be off that week. Thankfully his work was awesome and let him take leave. AND he at least didn’t know WHERE we were going OR that our BFF’s were coming out with us. The morning of our flight, when we got to the airport and saw where our tickets said we’d be going he was pumped. And then when we landed in Charleston and our BFF’s were there waiting for us at the airport we was so excited! I’m so so glad it all worked out. We had such an amazing vacation! We walked all over the city, went to the beach, ate food without having to worry about our collective 8 children arguing/yelling/telling us they don’t like the food, went to a baseball, the movies – we just had such a great time. Time to start planning the next vacation 🙂

Huge amount of real camera and phone pictures below!

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I’m officially obsessed with the area and hope we get to visit again sometime!